After a seven month battle over redactions, hundreds of thousands of petitioners and polling that showed nearly 70 percent of Americans supported it, the Senate Intelligence Committee has released the findings of a six-year investigation of the CIA’s use of torture post 9/11.
In the last few weeks leading up to the release of the findings, Udall became the focus of transparency advocates who urged him to leak the records if the CIA and White House would not agree to a less-redacted version.
In an interview with The Colorado Independent’s Mike Littwin, Udall said he was more than ready to read an un-redacted version of the summary live on the floor under the Constitutional protection of the “Speech and Debate Clause,” a process that would have taken some eight hours for the 500 page document.
“It was down to the wire. I was prepared to go to the floor, even at the last hour, to share the information and history of the brutality,” said Udall. “I’m pleased it didn’t come to that.”
Ultimately Udall said he believed the threat that he might leak the report contributed to its release through proper channels.
“I think that pressure led to today’s release. I’m not saying it was the only thing. There were other dynamics. I definitely don’t want to take sole credit. But I think the fact that I might go to the floor was an important part of it,” he said.
On the floor to respond to the release on Tuesday, Udall heralded what he called a historic victory for transparency.
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“The American people will finally know the truth about a very dark chapter in our nation’s history,” said Udall, adding that his primary goal was to expose the CIA’s lies to the public and their government and “the terrible acts committed in the name of the American people.”
In talking to The Independent, Udall was passionate in his critique of the so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” used by the CIA and its contractors.
“I take no joy in putting before the American people what we did,” Udall said. “But the reaction affirms what I’ve thought for so long — that we had to get this out. The American people needed to see the brutality of it, that it didn’t work, that they lied about it and that they mismanaged it … I was deeply angered by all the money paid to these people who didn’t know what they were doing or understand the immorality of what they were doing … This has left a great stain on our country, but it’s one I believe, over time, that we can remove.”
Udall’s successor, Republican Rep. Cory Gardner, didn’t immediately issue a public statement regarding the report’s findings. In the Spring, as the race between Udall and Gardner heated up, Gardner discussed the possibility that the torture report had become politicized and expressed concern about the national security ramifications of releasing the information.
Gardner’s fellow Republican in the House, Rep. Doug Lamborn of Colorado Springs, was quick to condemn the report.
“The partisan conclusions reached in the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report on CIA enhanced interrogation techniques is designed to humiliate our nation and the intelligence community. It also has the potential to endanger the lives of Americans,” Lamborn wrote in a release Tuesday. “I believe in transparent government, but I also believe in a government that is able to use all the tools at its legal disposal to protect American citizens.”
Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona disagreed with that conclusion on the floor, adding that his personal experience with torture matched the report’s conclusion.
“I know from personal experience that the abuse of prisoners will produce more bad than good intelligence,” said McCain. “Most of all, I know the use of torture compromises that which most distinguishes us from our enemies: our belief that all people, even captured enemies, possess basic human rights.”
[Image by Walt Jabsco]